What better way to start the week than with this cheery number off Belle & Sebastian’s new album, Write About Love?
“I Didn’t See It Coming” is the perfect case study for why we find B&S so beguiling. First, they’re all weird. Stuart Murdoch bounces around like a little springy jack-in-the-box. Everyone else (spare Sarah Martin, who flashes an occasional smile) looks robotic, including the crowd. They all appear to be stoned, as if wistful indie pop has drained them of all willpower except to sway and bob in blissed out fashion. Second, the song sneaks up on you the way B&S’s best always do. It’s likable at first listen. A few pieces stand out: Chris Geddes’ keyboard part (his intro announces, as Pitchfork noted of other songs on the album, “THIS RIGHT HERE IS A SONG BY BELLE & SEBASTIAN”); Martin’s honeyed vocals; guitarist Stevie Jackson’s melodic response. All of these build and simmer until, after the trippy guitar cum synthesizer solo ends at 3:23, they burst into a rhapsodic chorus. Martin sings “I didn’t see it coming” and Murdoch answers, “Make me dance/I want to surrender.” This refrain repeats eight times (Martin’s lyrics change), each one incorporating some new melodic wrinkle: vocal counterpoints, guitar fluorishes, rich instrumental harmonies. (Teenage Fanclub, another band on the Matador label, also has the gift of songs that end with a sustained emotional crescendo.) As we are wont to do, we listened to “I Didn’t See It Coming” about twenty-three times yesterday, and we can report we still have not burned it out yet. Unless you have an intense hatred of all things Scottish, you will also want to dance and surrender.
(At a recent show at the Hollywood Paladium, Jenny Lewis joined B&S onstage to lend her vocal talents to “Lazy Line Painter Jane.” We especially enjoyed the commenter who said “I was there that night, and I pretty much died of awesome overload.”)